SBD/March 25, 2013/Colleges

Poor Attendance At Pauley Pavilion May Have Contributed To UCLA Firing Howland

Howland took UCLA to three Final Fours during his coaching tenure
UCLA men’s basketball coach Ben Howland was fired yesterday, and economics played “a large part” in the decision, according to Chris Foster of the L.A. TIMES. Pauley Pavilion was renovated at the cost of $138M, and AD Dan Guerrero and Senior Associate AD/External Relations Mark Harlan “need the arena to make money.” Foster wrote one "theory is that a new coach might reinvigorate the fan base, which has been on the decline.” There were “only five crowds of more than 10,000 this season.” UCLA “charges a donation to the Wooden Athletic Fund for new season ticket holders, or those wishing to add seats or upgrade seats, on top of the price of the tickets.” Donations per ticket “run from $100 for upper-level seats to $17,000 to sit courtside.” Harlan yesterday said that long-time season-ticket holders “were not exempt from a Wooden Athletic Fund donation if their tickets were in a priority-seating area” (LATIMES.com, 3/24). DAILY VARIETY’s Brian Lowry wrote UCLA has “chosen to dump” Howland “for a reason that has cost many a showbiz exec his or her job: Lousy boxoffice.” The “drumbeat surrounding Howland has been fueled not only by a disappointing record but a failure to put asses in seats.” The “deck was stacked” against Howland “from the get-go.” Thanks to a “new TV deal, a number of Pac-12 games” started at 6:00pm PT, making it “difficult for the Bruin faithful to make tipoff.” At the same time, “practically every game is televised, reducing the incentive to attend in person.” In addition, ticket prices were “jacked up for the new arena.” Like “all of major sports now, UCLA danced to TV’s tune, then turned around and complained when the boxoffice results suffered because of those mercenary priorities” (VARIETY.com, 3/24).

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY? ESPN’s Bruce Pearl noted Guerrero is "one of the finest AD’s in the country," and he had an "opportunity to make a statement here that says that there’s more to this than just winning." Pearl: "I can only see that he hasn’t been hot lately. He took them to three Final Fours some years ago. Are you going to get a better coach than Ben Howland? Is that what you really think? I’m very surprised and disappointed in this move. Whoever said it’s not win at all costs isn’t telling you the truth” (“St. John’s-Virginia,” ESPN, 3/24).
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